Friendship That Heals

Posted on: June 13, 2012 Written by
Friendship That Heals
      Photography by: Esin Esra Toraman from iStock    

I will never forget the night our 13-year-old son came into our bedroom and said, “I think I’m sick.” I immediately thought it was strange he would be telling us this with such seriousness. He continued, telling us that he snuck out to be at a campfire with some other boys in town and had sex with a girl he met. They had beer, and he drank too much, and it just happened. He thought this girl, whose name he did not even know, had “made him sick.”

My head was swirling with questions that no mother would ever think she would have to voice, much less think: Sex? At 13? Sick? With what? Beer? I was trying to figure out when in the world he would have snuck out. Suddenly, I noticed how terribly skinny he had gotten. I realized the timing of all this just was not adding up; he had been losing weight for months now.

When he could hear the disbelief in my voice, he slumped in his chair and started shaking and heaving violently, repeating over and over, “Those ladies, those ladies, I feel so dirty, I’m so sick, I feel so dirty!” He curled into a ball. We tried to comfort him through our shock and his sobs.

As our son slowly uncoiled, the truth unraveled too. “Those ladies” were his friends’ mothers. They were doing sexual things to him in order to bribe him to take money from us. “Those ladies” were prostitutes, and they were using our son. However shocking this revelation was, I was devastated to learn that his promiscuous behavior was a result of years of sexual molestation perpetrated by a male missionary and many other boys who were older. Our son said to us that he liked what those women did because it helped him prove to himself that he was not a homosexual.

The shock of all we were learning was beyond comprehension. All I could say to my husband, over and over again, was, “What happened?”

We would later find out that a network of molestation was victimizing more of our children, as well as others. I was desperate for answers and help. Whom could we tell, and how? The secrets that had so deeply affected our children were too much for us to share openly with even some of our closest friends. Some of our children had allowed the shame and hurt to drive them to relief and escape in unspeakable ways. This felt irreparable, even unredeemable.

We returned to the States to seek help. Our coworkers inventoried our things and sold them all for us. That in itself felt like a punishment for something someone else did to “ruin” our lives and the innocence of our children.

A friend gave me a Women of the Harvest magazine with an article written by a missionary woman, Miriam,* who had a story similar to mine. She told of learning the shocking truth about her husband visiting male prostitutes for years in their country of service. Some of the same painful decisions she had faced were before us. Her children had to pack, close down, and say good-bye to their home and friends; ours did too.

It comforted me to know that there was another missionary woman who had felt the same as I did. “Numb” and “devastated” were perfect words, words which she used to describe all this. I had a hard time even looking at pictures from the past without wondering what was secretly going on at that time. How could I look back on our time on the field with those we loved and ministered to without each memory being clouded by what had happened?

I wrote to Miriam, and she wrote back; we talked on the phone several times. One of the most impactful things she said in the early days was, “Don’t forget who the enemy is.” I struggled with that, seeing the enemy as my friends, the kids, myself, my husband, the coworkers, their children, and the mothers of my son’s friends. I even thought of God as my enemy for allowing such shameful things to occur in our lives. In my mind this was not supposed to happen in our lives, since we faithfully left everything to follow Him.

Miriam encouraged me to come see her, to get help from professionals, and to focus on healing. My bitterness and despair grew even deeper as my kids started leaving home and making life choices that seemed to take all our time and energy. I wanted to agree with the psalmist that “…he will have no fear of bad news. His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” In reality, however, the bad news kept coming—immorality, broken relationships, drugs, alcohol, financial chaos, illegal behavior, jail. The devastation I was seeing in my children’s lives contributed to my feeling that only destruction could come from all this. My involvement in their struggles left no time for me to seek help for my own deeply shattered spirit and dreams.

I was angry at God, and it was obvious. It made me even angrier that I could not really share any of this with my community. Miriam would write from time to time to ask how I was. Ten years passed quickly, and I still had not sought out the intense help I needed. I operated in a mode of survival, trying to carry out my responsibilities in a cave of despair with benign resignation to my constant confusion and pain. How was God going to work this for the good? Again, it felt irreparable and unredeemable. It was clear that the evil one, who is the real enemy, paralyzed me, keeping me from seeking the healing counsel I needed.

Ten years and five months had passed since the night my son heaved in my arms. All my children were young adults, and my husband and I were ministering in another country. I received an email from Miriam, inviting me to come to the Women of the Harvest furlough retreat in Colorado Springs. It seemed impossible to attend, but I wanted to meet this lady whose article voiced so many of the things with which I was still struggling. I talked myself into dropping everything. I learned that I needed to pay only the retreat’s registration fee and that the rest would be sponsored. I could not believe God was providing this desire of my heart that had nothing to do with anyone else; it was just for me, for my mental health and spiritual well-being.

As I walked in the door at the retreat, the first person I met was Miriam! Beautiful Miriam. I cried, thinking of my long-held desire to meet her. She had been my role model. I would look at her and say, “I want to be like that when I grow up!” I wanted to be able to write an article that said, “This is the good God worked through all that,” and have it be with confidence and not shame. I wanted to share the victory with hurting women who needed some deep miracle to survive.

After hugging me as if she could feel all my pain and shame, Miriam and I set up an appointment for a counseling session. This is normally offered at the retreat for one hour, but she offered me two. I walked away feeling like there was hope for me. Finally, I would be with someone who would understand the depths of shame and embarrassment I had lived with all these years.

I opened my retreat folder and noticed a card that was addressed to Miriam—a card provided so that I could write a thank-you note to the person who sponsored me. To my surprise, Miriam had helped with my sponsorship so I could be here! Again, a sense of undeserved, overwhelming hope and gratitude swept over me. God was not going to allow me to continue to struggle with these secrets by myself. He did not want me living in fear and expectation of yet one more tragedy. He wanted me to see redemption.

Miriam’s healing counsel helped me see that even if I do the right thing in following God, bad and shameful things can still happen, but that He will use them in my life to bring glory to Him. I had scoffed at God: how dare You allow shameful things to happen to me or my family! I thought I could define how God would work in my life. I was angry that He was using shameful and embarrassing things to teach my children and me how to see redemption in something so evil. I had let myself think that these kinds of things do not happen to His faithful servants, and I thought that God owed me answers.

I have only begun to understand a tiny bit of the good God intends to bring from my life. I have tasted it through Him placing Miriam in my path. Now I am trying to understand what Hebrews 12:2 means when it says “Jesus despised the shame.” The first five verses of chapter one in Habakkuk remind me to not demand all the answers and to not even want to hear all the questions running around in my head:

The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received. How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence! but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. “Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

Even as I fight my inclination to demand answers to my children’s tragedy, I sometimes trick myself into thinking that if I just knew why, or what happened, somehow I would be okay. Yet the hope from Habakkuk is to “LOOK!…WATCH!…BE UTTERLY AMAZED!” at the “something” God is doing in my day. His answer to some hard questions about the destruction present in Habakkuk’s day is the same for me. He says this something is going to be astonishing: “You would not believe if you were told!”

In my looking, I found help through an article. As I watched, the Lord orchestrated a healing friendship with its author. To my amazement, my faithful sister showed me that the questions do not all have to be answered and the shame does not have to be gone for me to tell my story of the goodness of God. I can confidently say I would not have believed Him if He had told me what He was going to do in my hard circumstances; but I can say thank-you to Miriam for letting God work through her and show me His astonishing goodness.

*Miriam Jerome served cross-culturally with her family in Japan for 15 years. She has worked in the area of member care since 2000 and currently lives in Columbia, SC, where she is the Director of Missionary Resources Connection. She serves at WOTH Retreats as a transition consultant and life mentor.

Her article:  “Heart Lessons,”  Women of the Harvest Magazine, Jan/Feb/Mar 2005.  Also includes resources for people struggling with sexual addiction /abuse.

 

© 2012 Women of the Harvest.

Questions to Consider:  Are there circumstances in your life that seem irreparable, even unredeemable?  How does this article impact you?  What has God used to bring hope and restoration to your hard situation?



About the author

The author has served with one mission organization for 27 years, 16 of those in Latin America. Her husband has served in a multitude of job responsibilities from the technical stuff to the leadership within the mission. Discipleship, through whatever platforms are available, is her and her husband’s greatest passion.

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  • Joyfully His

    Wow – what a powerful story of redemption!!! Such real pain, such real love of our Savior. He cares! Thank you so much for sharing.

    • CAFH

      You are welcome. I believe the redeeming good is still growing in its power as I share. I believe it’s the evil one that would like our shame or embarrassment to keep me from sharing. It’s not a victory I want to give up by hiding and feeling like noone would understand or relate. Or that there is something weird or abnormal about my circumstances or life experiences. I think there is great power and redeeming good that comes when our pain becomes a comfort to others.

  • melodub

    How uncanny that I should receive this issue and this article tonight… My heart has been heavy all today after hearing news of a similar situation near us. This challenge to “look, watch, be ready to be amazed” at what our God will do — yes, very timely. Thank you for sharing.

    • CAFH

      I’ve been thinking a lot about that word timely and timing myself. So many of life’s struggles and heartaches seem to be hard to grasp with an eternal perspective as we go through them only because of the timing of it all. We just don’t see the end or finished redeeming good all the time when we’d like to. When the story doesn’t have a happy ending (yet) and nothing seems to be resolved or justice hasn’t been done we tend to jump to the conclusion that it’s all just a mess. Do we know the timing of the whole process that Job went through, from losing so much, to sickness, to those friends of his, to his wife’s hopelessness, to finally seeing hope and restoration of a lot of the physical stuff anyway? I’m sure it seemed like an eternity to at least him if not to his wife. Our situation would not be one that anyone would define as resolved. No justice has been done from this world and culture’s perspective. Things have even gotten worse from your average human perspective. But will I continue to share each redeeming good thing God does as we walk through this or will I sit and draw dreary conclusions about the good and evil of an unfinished, grand orchestration of something far beyond my imagination based on the faithful kindness of my Father?

      • Anonymous

        Dear CAFH,
        Your story and subsequent posts have helped me a lot. I can see that God has given you a lot of wisdom in how you are facing things- wisdom and faith that came thru very hard struggles. Some of your words have helped me to think in new ways. I wanted to tell you that I am praying for you and your family situations. I realised recently that since we have been going thru various struggles in our family over the past years, that my praying has become very me and my family centred and I know that is not healthy and that part of loving others is to care enough to pray for them. So as God helps me, I will continue to pray for you and yours. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

  • KAB

    How painful a story but how thankful I am for someone like Miriam who has been used to bless you. May God continue to grant you what you need from moment to moment. Blessings.

  • Thank you for sharing. There is power and healing in sharing the deepest and most devastating events of our lives. God can then come in and heal those empty spaces and fill them with His love.

  • DE79

    I have just finished reading your article for the third time – Why? well, it raises some questions that I too am dealing with. I struggled in our move overeseas many years ago to a new country with our kids as I feared how they would do there. It was Deutoronomy 7:9 which gave us courage to move – encouraging us that ” He is the faithful God keeping His covernant of love for a thousand generations of those who love HIm and keep His commands.” Yet there were so many struggles for us and for our kids and some negative impacts on each of them which I see in their lives to this day. So the question that raises its head – Does following God ever harm our children?

    Is it a fair question? or should we rather just leave it all in His hands?

    I am gathering together my own answers to this question – knowing that the story is not over yet. Trusting that His plans are much bigger, bolder than mine. That I can leave it in His hands. That He is faithful.

    I would love to hear if there are others who also ask this question.

    Thanks so much to CAFH for sharing your life and struggles with us. I am so thankful for the encouragement you have received from Miriam, as I know that often the painful aloneness when you can not share a struggle, adds a huge weight to the whole experience. Thank you for sharing some profound thoughts on trusting when we do not see.

    • Joy in Nepal

      “Does following God ever harm our children?”

      I, too, have thought on that a lot over the past years, worrying for my young MKs, and their adaption to life and their potential heartaches. (I don’t think my worrying is right, though, because it sets in me a spirit of fear–NOT of a sound mind.) In the author’s situation, though, “following God” did NOT harm her children, wicked people did. “Following God” as a missionary is not a promise for physical protection, any more than it is for any other Christian in their own country “follows God” in their day-to-day life. Bad/sad things happen because of sin and sometimes the hard thing is just because of the circumstances.

      Lately, I’ve been understanding more that “all things work together for GOOD to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” My children (as ANY person) will have difficulties to overcome, and all of these situations can be worked for good for them if they learn to yield to the Lord ask for His direction and help.

      That conclusion has given me peace about this worry. And, it has directed my prayers for them, asking the Lord to continue to draw them to Him, and direct them, and teach them from His words as they read and from their life situations, and to please protect them from harm and evil and my and my husband’s mistakes.

  • M

    Thanks for having the courage to share this. My heart just breaks. I can relate. I so wish I could give you a hug.

    We have a similar situation in our lives right now. It is absolutely devastating and has rocked our world. This is not the first tragedy that we’ve experienced.

    I really believe with all my heart that God did not “allow” this stuff to happen to us to teach us some kind of lesson. Of course, I believe it is totally redeemable and that God can do huge miracles in the midst of it. But the world is an evil place, and evil happens because of man’s choices and man’s sins. Unfortunately when someone else sins against you, you suffer for their evil choices. Because God gave all of us free will (a very precious gift) we are all at risk.

    The Bible says that God hates evil and abuse, and will defend the oppressed. I think that God desires that everyone be set free from sin, and no one ever abuse another child…that is His plan. Unfortunately His will is not always done on the earth. That’s why He told us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

    I think it is this knowledge that God is the good guy and the devil is the bad guy, that has helped us survive so far. Simple… but it really helps. Doesn’t mean I don’t have questions, of course. I just don’t believe that God rubber stamps every bad thing that happens to us. He is sovereign, but the catch is the free will part. If He made everything happen, or planned everything on earth to happen, good and bad, then why do we need to pray? Why do spiritual warfare? And that implies that God actually plans for people to sin – example – abuse kids. That CANNOT be in God’s plan!!! The Bible says that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. He can’t tacitly approve of evil. But He can turn it around for good!

    God has really helped me by just helping me to see His goodness in the midst of this. And I am still committed to fighting evil, everywhere i find it!!

    Thanks, this was a great article.
    M

  • Jesse

    Hey mom, you did good. I love you.

  • Sara

    Thank you so much for sharing!!! Just because this is the vocation we have chosen does not mean that we are immune to the tactics of the enemy. Even from within our own community. Your experience has brought tears to my eyes. I have been reprimanded by leadership for wanting a childcare policy at our company conferences and a teacher-student interactions policy at our school (one as simple as stating no non-school/non-supervised teacher student overnights…this happens were we are!) I know that this is no garuntee that evil will not touch our families or our children. But when the dust settles I want to look at our children in the eye and be able to say that their believing community did our best to ensure that they were protected.

    God have mercy should the harm come from those claiming to love the Lord or else our chldren’s faith will have little hope. Our son got sucked into online porn at the early age of 8 after we thought we had plug up all the holes. Our enemy prowels looking for His victims. May sharing your experience not only wake us up but bring healing to the rest of us. Keep up the good work sister and may what the enemy intended for evil in your children’s lives be turned back against him and used for good in the kingdom.
    (sorry for any misspellings as I think that the better my foreign language improves the worse my English gets!)
    Blessings Sara

  • Coleen

    My dear sister in the Lord and fellow servant: My heart resonates and aches with the story you have shared. I could share a similar experience from our history—-abuse to our children while we served on a foreign field. I have experienced many of your same emotions–oh so many. And I feel them to the core every time I lean of another child abused especially in these enviroments in which they should have been safe. God have mercy upon those who have hurt the children (and consequently their parents) so very deeply.; God has done much in the lives of our children and brought them to places of healing and wholeness and for that we truly praise Him. We know that for others, it is being a longer, more painful process—but He will continue to offer His wholeness for their hurting hearts, minds, and souls.
    I had the opportunity to meet Miriam at a WotH retreat in South America; in fact, I had the deep privilege of having her as our small group leader. I consider her to be a precious gem of God who is being greatly used in so many lives, because she has allowed God to bring redemptive purposes from her shattered life. What a beautiful lady, beautiful picture of God’s love that she is and so very approachable.
    You are loved, dear one, and I will pray for your family as I pray for so many that have been affected by abuse. Until we meet in glory, hugs to you.
    CMT

    • CAFH

      Thank you Coleen. This was an encouragement. I love to hear of every “sighting” of God’s redemptive good from the most unimaginable pain. Part of the pain sometimes seems to be how very hard it is that we have to work to “see” with eyes of faith in this life redemptive good from tragedy and loss. I am renewing my commitment to look..hard..with gratitude to see every glimpse of God’s goodness with every breath I GET the privilege to breathe.